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    Braiiiiinnns. Also Happy New Year


    2012 - 01.16

    Yes, I know it’s practically February. It’s hard to rush when you’re a zombie (unless you’re one of those newfangled ones). Anyway, I was away over Christmas and New Year — finally got back on my snowboard, and thankfully hadn’t completely forgotten the keyboard shortcuts and where to put the wheels.

    A quick round up:

    Raiding:
    Before Christmas, work/social stuff was incredibly hectic and I didn’t make either of the two nights we raided Dragon Soul. So it was pleasing last week to finally experience some of it with real people, as opposed to the Turing test candidates in LFR. We were a bit rusty, and co-ordination problems and rogues wanting pickpockets slowed us down, so we actually only killed the first three bosses, but as the cobwebs were removed it seemed straightforward enough. I have done the first four in LFR a couple of times, and (based only on a DPS perspective) I think the difficulty levels are pretty well matched between LFR and “real” raiding — the extra co-ordination and control you have in a “proper” raid and which is lost in LFR is compensated for by the reduced difficulty. Of course it does mean that, if your group is paying attention, LFR is a touch processional, but that’s ok.

    Guild:
    As ever, being a small guild can be tricky. Of course there’s the game-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned turning heads and hearts, poachers (hands off our warlock!), different playstyles and goals to accommodate, the ever-present risk of a long-term player just running out of WoW-steam plus those tricky real-life issues like jobs eating into personal time and spouses accidentally leaving laptops on public transport (!). WTB reliable, fun and remunerative jobs with sensible and predictable hours for my guild (and myself) please.

    Hour of Twilight
    Well they listened. The 5mans seem (unless you end up in *that* group) 30 minutes-or-less-and-done affairs, there are a few fun mechanics, Illidan is campy enough that I don’t (yet) want to bludgeon him with a butter mallet and the loot tables appear balanced such that I’ll be running the damned things forever to fill out missing slots (*grumble*). Even with distinctly subpar DPS you can make it if people can move out of bad stuff. That said, I can’t decide whether it’s the change to holy paladin mechanics or the way healing works in these particular dungeons, but I am finding healing trickier. Once my shaman’s resto gear is ready, I might better be able to judge where the change lies.

    Difficulty
    I imagine that the forums are once again filled with people complaining that the new content is “faceroll” and “for the bads”, although I’ve not been to check. Certainly both the 5 mans and DS feel much more gently tuned than the Zandalaris and Firelands did at launch (with the caveat here that I’ve not done the back half of Dragon Soul, which I understandis something of a step-up in difficulty). It’s the ever-present tradeoff. During FL, only towards the end did I have more than one character I thought of as “raid ready” — Gwyddeon (bear) has tanked FL a couple of times and my DK or hunter could have filled a spot if need be (but weren’t ideally placed). The idea of running the troll instances on multiple characters really didn’t appeal that much, and it was only as I ran out of things to buy with VP on Ano that I really put effort in on the others.

    Admittedly it was my first week back and I was a little like a desert wanderer at an oasis, but I’ve maxed VP on three characters so far this week and can see a number of my characters having fun in LFR in the next few weeks. The shorter run times, (apparent) relative lower difficulty and the novelty of the new means I’m quite looking forward to running the 5′s and the first half of LFR on as many characters as I can find time for. Quite a change — I wonder if that’s just me, or whether others are feeling the same way?

    Altitude
    Another one made it to 85 — Neposlushnyj, a Enh/Resto shammygoat. I’ve not done much in the way of healing at max level yet as I prioritised gearing her enhancement set, but I’m finding enh fun, if occasionally a little strange. It’s nice to see fairly consistent DPS on singles and pairs of trashmobs (vs the RNG yoyo of retribution) but it is a little disconcerting to get to a boss fight and not have any cooldowns to press (other than wolves, which sound great but don’t appear to do all that much). AoE is great when it works, but can be a bit of a ‘mare if individuals die before I can spread flame shock with lava lash. It seems that the better the group’s DPS, the worse Nepo does at AoE :S. Otherwise she’s a lot of fun and I think I’ve finally managed to block out her silly wobbly-bum-walk. Meanwhile, other mothballed 85s are pushing their way out of semi-retirement and complaining that their mailboxes still smell :O

    LFR
    I like LFR as an additional thing I can do for fun and to maybe grab some loot1, but I’m not sure yet whether it’s ultimately going to be a good thing for the game as I like to play it. When people who are in relatively low-intensity guilds (like ours) who have never really cared overmuch about heroic modes kill Deathwing in the second week of the patch, I can easily see it affecting their desire to work through the same content on normal mode. It makes me wonder if WoW won’t echo the economic condition of the world in general here: the rich (hardmode/hardmode-aspirant guilds) get richer (more access to loot, set pieces etc) and the poor2 (less focused normal mode guilds) get poorer (struggle to motivate their raiders who have already seen the content on LFR and aren’t necessarily bothered about their epeens).

    Community
    There have been a few departures from the blogging world recently that I’ve found… distressing. People who were funny, or amusingly bitchy, or informative, or informatively funny, or some combination thereof. New directive: from now on, if you’re going to stop blogging about wow,  please be one of the people I added to my feedreader aeons ago whose posts I barely skim. It won’t make any difference to you, but I’ll feel better.

    Gah. Wordgasm — babble everywhere.

    I’m off for a lie down and a post-prose cigarette. Adieu!

    --
    1. ha ha, have you seen how many paladins and priests there are in the average LFR? []
    2. I’m not for a moment suggesting that there’s something “poor” about not being a hardmode raider. It just works for the analogy, ‘k? []

    Fish feasts, word beasts


    2011 - 09.03

    The title rhymes for a reason.

    I was getting bored of buying my own food for raiding ‘n stuff, so decided we needed to get the recipe for the lobster jacuzzi. A fishing competition seemed like the thing… but with a little guild like ours, a “first person to get X number of fish” competition wasn’t going to work. Neither would a “everyone get together on X day and fish”, unless we decided to forgo raiding for an evening to do it (no thanks). So… the fishing and poetry competition was born.

    Entry requirements: 120 fish from pools plus one poem, haiku or limerick. Delivered in about a week or less.

    Results: well, we got the fishing achievement before all of the entries were in. And guildies are now voting on their favourite poems, with the winner taking away a unique guild rank (tbd) and their choice of a pet from the Blizzard pet store OR a bike mount. Whichever one is left will then be awarded to another entrant by that most capricious of judges, Lady RNG.

    To give you an example:

    There once was a man called Ano
    Who thought he could play the piano
    But his thumbs were too big
    On just his first gig
    They compared his recital to guano

    He sat at his desk with a pen
    And thought about hobbies again
    Where is the thrill
    When your hands have no skill?
    And you fail nine efforts in ten

    He decided to put us to shame
    And started a dragony game
    “But which class to be
    With these phalangees
    I’m tired of being to blame”

    So he took up a paladin mace
    And flourished in dungeons with grace
    But his method was flawed
    We thought he tapped the keyboard
    But the whole time he just played with his face

    And no, I didn’t write that. Bastards.

    Also, I’ve been playing too much to write, but I have been reading. This morning, I read this post on wowhead news, linking/quoting from a couple of articles about “why cataclysm is bad” or “why WoW is dying”. There’s very little point in commenting on it there, and not much more point in writing about it here, but what the hell.

    1. “Most people dislike Cataclysm”. Really? I see no hard data on that (feel free to point me at some). I see a lot of forum bandwagon jumping, but that’s normal. I see a bunch of people who don’t like specific things. I’m not sure that adds up to “most people dislike Cataclysm”. Not even slightly. Anecdotal: I’m having a good time. So are the people I’m playing with.

    2. A study quoted in the Gamasutra article surveyed 2865 self-selected WoW players, 72% of whom were from the US, 70% of whom had played for three years or more. And which was published six months before Cataclysm was released. It’s an interesting study on the subject, but as far as I can tell it’s got nothing to do with the article quote from the author, who says “I think people get bored more quickly”. Than what? And, er, ok.

    3. Again from the Gamasutra article, there’s a quote from a staff writer and wow player who says “There isn’t a lack of content in Cataclysm. The problem is the lack of strong appeal for anyone in particular. The gear doesn’t carry enough psychological weight for the hardcore players, and the raids are too difficult for more casual players, especially relative to the rewards they provide. The last raiding tier was significantly nerfed in 4.2, but its rewards are now behind what casual players can acquire by doing 5-mans, so there’s no incentive to raid older content beyond doing it once or twice just to see the new bosses.”

    The thing is, that’s not really true. You can buy chest, legs, hands, bracers, one ring, one neckpiece and a relic/wand from the VP vendor, all of which are better than gear from tier 11 but it’ll take you several weeks of dungeon running to buy them all. You can buy boots, a trinket, another ring and a cloak from the JP vendor, which are *as* good as, not better than the drops from tier 11 (give or take, depending on your stat priorities), plus you can pick up t11 chest, legs and hands which might be better than raid drops once you have two items (for the set bonus). The rest is raid only, unless you want to spring for BoEs or crafted items.

    Also, there we go with the whole “casual” bullshit again. What’s a casual player in this context? Someone who doesn’t raid regularly? Someone who only pug-raids? Someone who can only commit 90 minutes to any one gaming session? If you’re that “casual”, you’re hardly likely to be drowning in VP/JP so … eh? That has a bit of a smell of the old “if I raid, I want to be massively, visibly and demonstrably better looking/better geared than you nooby scrubs” thinking, which I tend to dislike. If you’re interested in that sort of boasting, send people links to the RSS feed/screenshot of your battle.net character newsfeed, with the date of your first kill prominently visible1.

    That last point comes back to something that makes me twitch a bit. Are there really so many people who play until they’ve ticked off every item on their “I want this” gear list, and then unsubscribe until the next patch adds in a few new weapons or what have you? The reward mechanism for WoW (group content) is pretty well known, but I always thought it was a combination of things: exploration (new bosses/mechanics), teamplay, social interaction (raidchat/voicecomms), personal performance (execution), group performance, progression (next boss/harder mode/achievements for difficult things), “tangible” rewards (loot). Is the last item >>>> all of the others?

    --
    1. PS: if you do this to me as some sort of boast, it’s possible I will conclude you’re a knob. []

    How not to fight Nefarian as a Ret paladin


    2011 - 07.27

    Yes, I know, who does BlackRockWingLairDepthsDescentSpire1 these days? Well, me. Us, even. With only seven guild raiders available on Monday we decided to pass on our first Firelands run in favour of the only T11 raid we hadn’t cleared on last week’s lockout. There are still plenty of upgrades in there for people (and tier tokens) after all.

    Our recent player shortage left us with more melee DPS than ranged, and a shortage of healers, so I’ve been healing in every raid I attended since… March? Add to that my general impatience and the considerably shorter LFG queue times for healers, and the result is that other than running the Molten Front dailies, I’ve spent very little time in my retribution spec. Don’t get me wrong, healing has been a lot of fun, and I’m finally starting to make better use of my healing cooldowns (although I still forget HoS/HoP until it’s too late), but a chance to hit things with a big hammer?

    /sign.

    It’d be fair to say I’m a bit rusty, but thanks to the reduced dangers of T11 post 4.2, decent raid DPS and frankly overpowered healing, all went well. Until we reached Nefarian and my realisation that, as the only melee DPS, I’d be kiting the skeletal adds.

    How not to fight Nefarian as a ret paladin

    1. Make sure you’ve absolutely no idea where Hand of Reckoning is. Well, since they removed the damage component, why would you need it? Leaving it bound just increases the likelihood of hitting it with an ear.
    2. Be sure to get completely distracted by DPSing Onyxia at the start and fail to position yourself to collect the adds.
    3. Once you’ve collected the adds, be sure to run as far as possible from the healers. They love that. Healing spells have infinite range, dontchaknow?
    4. When you *do* manage to collect the adds nicely together, be sure to be both a) out of healing range (see above) and b) in front of Nefarian. If the tank can stand there, why can’t you?
    5. Run in bizarre lines to generate a nice conga line of skellies (ay-ay-ay-ay-ay-HEY!), the better to leave them scattered all over the room. Your Onyxia tank enjoys sprinting around trying desperately to collect them from underneath Nefarian in phase three.
    6. Once you’ve found Hand of Reckoning, it becomes an I-win button. Press it frequently. Under no circumstances check to see if you’ve accidentally targeted Onyxia. Eep.
    7. Rumours of paladin bubbles temporarily removing the paladin from aggro tables are just that — rumours.
    8. Righteous Fury is an unattractive thing — no-one likes an angry zealot. Be sure to not use it, especially if you’re having problems picking up the adds.
    9. Righteous Fury is a DPS boost. If you did switch it on for the adds, leave it on for phase 3. Your Nefarian tank was coasting, lazy so-and-so, he needs to work on his threat anyway.
    10. If for some reason you’re feeling kindly to your Nef tank (why??) and want to switch RF off, make sure that some combination of addons/errors/PEBKAC prevents you from doing so2. Stand still in the middle of the raid frantically clicking and reclicking on the buff in the forlorn hope that “the 14th time it’ll work, I know it”.
    11. When you finally give up on spam-clicking your buff and try a different approach, be sure to forget how to spell /cancelaura. Do this several times.
    12. Bonus points if you can spend the entirety of a heroism/bloodlust mistyping “/cancelaura Righteous Fury”3.
    13. Double bonus points if you are outrolled for the tier token by one of your pugged raiders.
    And there you have it. Aren’t you proud to know me now?
    --
    1. I can never remember the name of the damn instance []
    2. I use ElKano’s buff bars, and it wouldn’t let me right-click to remove RF? []
    3. At least I didn’t whisper it to anyone. I don’t think []

    Long overdue guild post


    2011 - 07.21

    We’ve had some changes here in Enthusiasm over the past couple of months.

    We were pretty low on numbers at the end of Wrath, and we struggled mightily with the attendance boss when making our final kills. Moving into Cataclysm, we probably made some mistakes in setting tone and expectations, in not recruiting to give ourselves a little more strength in-depth. So we started raiding late, and cancelled a lot of raids. Disatissified variously with the game and with the guild, a number of players left both and went to play Rift. In total five people left within a couple of weeks, including both our raid leader and our guild leader.

    As the only actively playing officer, I became the new guild leader roughly a week before disappearing for a month or so on a working binge. Not the best timing!

    It took a strongly-worded post on our forum to shake us from our ennui and get our act together. It wasn’t the nicest thread to read, especially as one of the first things I came across on my return, but it was what we needed. Changes were made, and our new officers did more in a week than I’d done in the preceding 8 months.

    So where are we now?

    Well, we’re still not at full raiding strength, although as I’ve complained (jokingly) before, it doesn’t help that we’re a bunch of people with busy lives. There are about 20 of us in the guild at the moment, if I include the few non-raiding members we have and cherish. Of those 20, four have just moved house and are only just returning now they have Internet access at home and one has just returned from a three-week absence for work- and holiday-related travel. One player had an accident while caving and missed a raid through injury. We need more shut-ins!

    That said, I’m feeling pretty positive. We have a couple of new recruits who are busily seeing if they like us and if we like them. Two of the five who left WoW for Rift are back, and as far as I can tell, thoroughly enjoying both the game and the guild.

    We still need some more players. Having five players unavailable because of house moves/travel is fairly exceptional for a guild our size, but there’s always something. For example, this is the first week since… since I can’t remember, actually, that we’re going to have raided on all three of our scheduled nights. And we had to bring in pugs/helpers from our buddy guild to make it happen.

    In spite of that, I think we’ll be ok. With a little luck, another new recruit or two and a following wind, we’re going to have a great time in tier 12.

    So: here’s the elevator speech.

    Enthusiasm is an Alliance 10 man raiding guild on Darkmoon Faire (that’s EU). We like friendly banter, raiding, and complete sentences (yes Mrs Eff, that’s in our official “mission statement”). And cake. We really, really like cake.

    Find out more about us by visiting enthusiasm-guild.com1, fill in our little form (there’s only one question about cake, but don’t let that give you the wrong impression) and/or say hi to us in-game. We’re not Ensidia DREAM-Paragon and we don’t have 900000 members, and we like it that way. Maybe you would too.

    --
    1. excusing the current default design if you please — I’m working on it, I promise []

    (P)C:\ ADVENTure


    2011 - 06.29

    You are in a small room, with shelving spanning two walls. A third wall is covered with simple shapes in a number of colours. They look like sprites from “Space Invaders”. By the entrance is a desk strewn with miscellaneous computer equipment: monitors, keyboards, laptops, optical disks. There is a large fake-leather chair by the desk.

    There is food here: cheese on toast
    There is a glass of milk here


    My gradually-failing PC finally reached the point where it was more often not working than working, so I thought I’d better do something about it. I tried a motherboard replacement with no success. “Perhaps it’s the power supply?” I mused in guild chat, in between reboots and crashes.

    So last night, having checked to see whether the PC was still unstable (yes — pretty much unusable) I untangled the spaghettiball of cables inside the case and swapped in the power supply from my currently-unused media centre PC1  It wasn’t a straightforward process, but thankfully I could at least remember where I’d stashed the spare cables2 and, after a bit of cursing re: graphics cards that require 2 PCI-e power connectors and which are long enough to overhang the SATA cables, I got everything plugged in.

    *Click* *whirrr*

    Ok. I can log in. That’s an improvement. Let’s jump ingame and stress test it. A quick frostlord run…done. Great. So what next — maybe I should *bweeeeee*

    *Black screen*

    *Silence*

    Oshit. *sniff*

    Is that… burning? BURNING!

    *frantic unplugging*

    Great.

    You are in the small room with the shelving and the space invaders. A defeated and haggard-looking Ano is slumped by a wall. His knees are tucked under his chin, tangled hair covering his face. He looks at you blankly, then goes back to staring into space. Muttered curses are just audible.

    There is a part-dismembered PC here
    There is a screwdriver here
    There is a tumbler containing oily amber liquid here
    There is an open window to the east
    There is a door to the west


    Time for plan C. With a quick USE SCREWDRIVER I removed the remaining components from the media PC, discarding the TV tuners and redundant parts. After a certain amount of poking and prodding, more cable-restringing, a couple of skinned knuckles, some mid-level swearing, three instances of turning the case upside down to retrieve a dropped screw and several ow-my-neck-I-really-should-have-moved-the-case-from-under-the-desk breaks, I was ready.

    *click*

    *whirr*

    *beep* *beepity-beep* *beepity*

    Oh yeah. Many BIOS settings to change.

    *click*

    *whirr*

    *beep* *bweee* <<auto-reboot>>

    Oh you little basssss…*beep*

    <windows logo>

    Huh?

    *chitter-chatter*

    <drive activity light goes nuts>


    <time passes>

    …and it’s working! Huzzah! Or at least I think it is. There was a certain amount of housekeeping to do, and I still can’t get the proper AHCI drivers to install because the dumbasses at AMD seemingly want to use the Catalyst installer for all driver installs, which would be fine except all it does (no matter what I download) is reinstall my graphics drivers. Which is irritating. But it does appear to… work. I think. Hopefully I’ll find out later tonight, when I get back from the zoo.3


    You are in the small room with the shelving and the space invaders. In the corner, there are two piles of computer components. From a bedroom nearby comes the sound of someone operating a chainsaw. Or possibly someone drowning a pig. Whilst operating a chainsaw at the same time.

    There is an empty tumbler here, smelling faintly of peat
    There is a small pile of 6-32 screws here
    There are some earplugs here

    It’s dark. A hollow voice says “plugh”. 

    --
    1. Happily, I discovered it was a nice 500W modular effort from OCZ rather than some no-name rubbish. Clearly I had been at least a little awake when preparing that machine… []
    2. the worst part about modular PSUs: remembering where you put the cables you didn’t need at build time []
    3. I’ve been invited to a party in London Zoo. I’ll find out tonight if I’m there only because the furry creatures will be asleep and they want someone to pet []